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Psychologist First to Retire from Evansville Cancer Center

After six years with the center, Al Spillman, HSPP, retires

February 16, 2001--Al Spillman, HSPP, will be the first employee to retire from the Evansville Cancer Center. He was also the first psychologist in the area to be hired by a physician's office to work on-site with cancer patients.

Being diagnosed with cancer or having recurrence of cancer can be scary, stressful, and overwhelming. During his tenure, Mr. Spillman's presence has been a continual reminder to our patients, families and staff about the importance of being able to cope with a chronic illness.

When asked how he began his career in psychology 30 years ago, Mr. Spillman responded with an interesting story. While in the air force he befriended a former air force officer who survived a downed plane, but left the accident a hemiplegic. The two had common ground and became friends. It was this friend who suggested that Mr. Spillman would make a good psychologist. This comment was the influence that Mr. Spillman needed. He received his Masters of Psychology from the University of Missouri in August, 1964.

While at the Evansville Cancer Center, Mr. Spillman has addressed immediate and ongoing psychological needs individually, with families, or in groups. His numerous accomplishments at our Center include:

  • Providing on-site crisis intervention enabling treatment to proceed as scheduled. "If a person is having anxiety, or 'becomes panicky' before, during, or after treatment, Al has been available to give the person immediate, useful interventions such as relaxation techniques," stated Al Korba, M.D., Medical Director at the Evansville Cancer Center. Mr. Spillman has used a variety of complementary techniques such as guided imagery, and sound therapy to help patients relieve discomfort, reduce stress and anxiety. Not only can the use of complementary techniques help improve a persons quality of life, but this treatment has been shown to stimulate the immune system which helps persons better tolerate treatment," stated Mr. Spillman.

  • Initiating Man To Man - A Prostate Support Group. Al Spillman is not only leaving behind his job at the Evansville Cancer Center, but he is also surrendering his position and most treasured accomplishment as the facilitator of the Man To Man Prostate Support Group. "This group has been a blessing to me, and even if I am not here physically they will always be in my heart" is how Al expressed his feelings about leaving the group. He does plan to visit the group on occasion because as he says, "his relationship with the group goes well beyond facilitator." Man To Man has been instrumental in bringing awareness about the need for prostate screening and education regarding the options available for the treatment of prostate cancer to the local, regional, and minority community. While facilitating Man To Man, it was learned that the wives and significant others of men who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer had their own issues to discuss. Al Spillman worked with Polly Bigham, from the American Cancer Society and Mary Kapp, Facilitator, to develop the Side By Side Support Group so that the families of prostate cancer survivors could have their own needs met. Side By Side and Man To Man meet together for educational offerings. The groups then separate into different rooms for private, supportive discussion.

  • Facilitating I Can Cope, a special series of educational classes to help patients and their loved ones face the day to day challenges of living with a chronic disease. This program has been a yearly, five week presentation at the Evansville Cancer Center facilitated by Mr. Spillman. "I Can Cope starts out as an informational meeting, but quickly becomes a support group because cancer survivors and their families return weekly. The information given in the program empowers the group participants and the dynamics following the educational session allows a forum of support," states Mr. Spillman.

  • Implementing the use of a screening tool. All new and recurring patients are asked to answer a series of multiple choice questions regarding their feelings about a variety of health and personal issues. Each tool is then reviewed by Mr. Spillman. If an area of potential difficulty is noted, Mr. Spillman has been able to meet with the person to discuss any issues. "In helping people to adjust to a chronic life-threatening illness, at first you must consider that the person may be overwhelmed. As treatment proceeds, people may begin to find some positives in their experience," states Mr. Spillman. "For example: Some patients change their priorities and their families become very important. Some patients develop a closer relationship with a supreme being. Some patients find good friends who display support. A positive attitude enables the person to cope better with treatment."

  • Grief counseling. "When someone loses a person they care about, there is a period of grief that is normal, but this loss also leaves a person vulnerable. If needed, support for the bereaved families has been available," stated Mr. Spillman.

Al Spillman feels blessed to have had the opportunity "to affirm the feelings and emotions people face when diagnosed with a life threatening illness. Every person you come in contact with is a chance for both of you to grow and change." He has also learned a lot about faith, hope, love, and family through his patients.

Al Spillman is thankful that six years ago Dr. Al Korba and Dr. Aly Razek recognized the "need to hire a psychologist to come on board to help take care of the emotional needs of the patients at the Evansville Cancer Center." After retirement Mr. Spillman plans "to have no schedule for a couple of months!" Who can blame him? "Retirement is refocusing," stated Al Spillman. So, after a little R & R, he plans to use his talents to help his church and the community.

Thank you Al and Happy Retirement!

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